Bridget Martin

“Politics matter, elections certainly matter, and policy matters,” said AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker as she kicked off the 2012 Metal Trades Conference.

“We will win [this election] for working families,” said Holt Baker, “because we care about all America, and God knows we care about that 47 percent that Mitt Romney doesn’t seem to give a damn about.”

Attendees to the conference heard that sentiment repeated many times over the course of the two-day event held October 10-11, 2012, at Bally’s Hotel in Las Vegas.

The conference theme this year was stressing the importance of the upcoming elections with speakers focusing on the get-out-the-vote efforts needed in key battleground states as well as the presidential election.

Holt Baker emphasized policy differences between President Obama and Governor Romney – noting the stark different positions between the two on social programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

“The Ryan/Romney budget would gut education, training, research and development and everything else that America needs to grow and it would end Medicare as we know and turn it into a cash cow for insurance companies. All of that to give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires,” noted Holt Baker.

“Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and right wing Republicans, they do not share our values or our vision and that matters because values matter…. We must move forward.”

Bridget Martin, political director for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, encouraged attendees hit the ground running when they returned to their home states after the Conference. Martin introduced Mitt Romney, “Mr. 1%,” using a series of videos and slides from the IBB and AFL-CIO.

“If Mitt wins, the middle class loses,” emphasized Martin.

Sean McGarvey, President of the North America's Building Trades Unions

Sean McGarvey, President of the North America’s Building Trades Unions

Martin’s presentation went on to identify the critical House and Senate, Gubernatorial and State Legislative races where union workers needed to focus their time and attention between now and November 6, 2012.

Last year, at the 2011 69th Metal Trades Department Convention, delegates voted to back President Obama and Vice President Biden in their re-election bid and Conference attendees were presented with MTD for Obama/Biden buttons and other materials during this Conference.

Attendees were greeted at the Conference with videos from DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz, Senate Candidate from Virginia Tim Kaine and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.

Building and Construction Trades Department President Sean McGarvey began his remarks talking about Sequestration and how those cuts will impact members in the building and metal trades.

“Sequestration is going to happen. These cuts are going to affect our members. The cuts are going to happen at the Pentagon, the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation, GSA the Labor Department they are all going to get cut, and so is every other federal agency. A lot of how we wind up, a lot of how that deal is structured, depends on what happens on November 6th.”

Moving on to discuss the elections, McGarvey pointed out the billionaires that are contributing to the GOP and supporting Mitt Romney are dangerous. Groups funded by the likes of Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire owner of the Venetian Hotel, and the Koch Brother are giving millions of dollars to fund campaigns like the ballot initiative to get rid of workers rights in California and the anti-union maneuvering in Wisconsin and Ohio along with the voter suppression initiatives across the country.

McGarvey asked that attendees drop everything they can to get “our people engaged, get their families and extended families engaged. They have to know what is at stake here,” McGarvey implored. “Don’t think if you live in a state that is in good shape politically that this isn’t going to effect you. If the local Central Labor Council is having a phone bank, get your members to call people in Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Florida and tell them why you care about their state living where you live. These guys [the billionaires] aren’t going away. Massive unemployment, in building trades has confused members about why they should vote for Obama over Romney,” McGarvey continued.

“You’ve got work to do, and not just in the presidential race. This all starts at home, it all starts with you and your members we are in the final push…and we have to give it all.”

LIUNA president Terry O’Sullivan was a dynamic closing speaker for the conference. O’Sullivan doesn’t mince words vowing to “fight for workers against the likes of Grover Norquist and all of his tea party extremists” who are out to destroy the working class and union members as a whole.

O’Sullivan told the crowd “this is the most dangerous election of our lifetime what is at stake is the heart and soul of our union, our movement, and our country. On November 6, if Romney wins, if democrats lose control of the senate and republicans keep the house it could mark the end of the union movement as we know it. Instead of taking care of the rich of Wall Street and the corporations, we need to take care of Main Street and America for a change. It is time to elect a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. A government that is going to fight to protect our country and our people. A government that understands that the most valuable asset in our country isn’t Wall Street, isn’t corporate America, it is working class men and women.”

Echoing the sentiment of earlier speakers O’Sullivan reminded the crowd that we need to get our members engaged, hit the streets, phone banking, knock on doors and hand out leaflets like never before.

Additional speakers included Vice Admiral Kevin McCoy, Commander Naval Sea Systems Command and Mike Petters, CEO Huntington Ingalls Industries, who both spoke about shipbuilding and the future of the industry. IAM’s Jim Price on behalf of the Guide Dogs of America; Lynn Tucker, General Vice President IAMAW, Dave Ritchie, General Vice President IAMAW and James Weakley from the Lake Carriers’ Association; Phil Venoit, Business Manager IBEW Local 230; and Fred Myers, Executive Director Union Sportsmen Alliance.